Formatting Dialogue

Hello, Write Owls. Welcome to Day 27 of Grammar 110. Today we’re talking about formatting dialogue.

I’ve workshopped with a lot of writers who don’t know how to format dialogue, so today I’m going to show you how.

Dialogue always goes in quotation marks. Punctuation typically goes inside the quotation marks. If the dialogue isn’t at the very end of the sentence, replace the period with a comma. Do not replace question marks or exclamation points.

When you have a new speaker, the dialogue should start a new paragraph with an indentation. If you have actions and dialogue belonging to the same character, they can go in the same paragraph. You need to show who is speaking. This is done using dialogue tags. I’ll be talking more about dialogue tags tomorrow, but they’re basically “he said”, “she asked”, etc. Dialogue tags are set off with commas. You do not capitalize dialogue tags unless they start the sentence.


            “Where are you going?” he asked.

            “To the library,” she said, “to check out books on space travel.”

            He raised his eyebrows. “You want to read about space travel?”

            “Yeah. I want to be an astronaut and live on Mars.”

            “Oh,” he said, nodding his head. “That’s cool.”

            She asked, “Do you want to come with me?”

That’s how you format dialogue. If you need a reference, you can look at virtually any published work of fiction that has dialogue in it, and it will show you how to format properly. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, and I’ll answer them as a reply since there’s no Q&A on Saturday.

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